MUSKOKA – Lawns may have been crispy during the last heat wave, but municipal water levels held their own, says Tony White.
White, commissioner of engineering and public works for the District of Muskoka, said the district’s main indicator for the status of municipal water levels is a well in the village of Port Sydney.
“Typically, if we have issues with water supply, that’s where we have them,” he said, referring the community well that serves about 30 homes.
“That well has a restriction on it from the Ministry of the Environment as to how much water we can take, and when we sometimes approach that level we restrict lawn watering,” he said. “But this year, for some reason, we haven’t had to.”
The department checked the well’s water levels the week of July 16 and found water use was well within the limits set by the ministry.
If water levels in the Port Sydney well do get low, the district hand delivers water restriction notices to the community members who rely on that reservoir.
“But so far it doesn’t look like we’re going to need to impose a restriction,” said White.
And with rains coming to Huntsville on the evening of July 25 and continuing into the following day, any threat seems to have been dampened for now.
White said the larger municipal water systems in Huntsville, Bracebridge and Gravenhurst are all fine as well.
“I don’t ever recall hitting the limit in the larger communities,” he said. “Really, the only question is can we make drinking water fast enough for people who are consuming it? The answer to that is, ‘Yes.’”
If the district did issue a water restriction, it would alert the public through community newspapers, radio spots and its website, said White.
Muskoka and Parry Sound were hit with a string of brush, grass and bush fires as hot, dry weather scorched vegetation and threatened swamps and wetlands.
Predictions of rain dried up repeatedly over the past few weeks leaving dry conditions with next to no rainfall.
“Obviously, vegetation is parched, the top layer of the soil is parched, and anything that is exposed directly to the atmosphere I suppose is evaporating, particularly with the wetlands because they don’t get replenished like the lakes do,” said White.
However, he was not prepared to encourage people in urban centres on municipal water to start watering their lawns to prevent grass fires, despite parched landscapes.
“I don’t know that I would advise people to go around soaking their (urban) properties in order to avoid fires,” said White. “Lawn watering is a pretty expensive proposition, so I think I’d leave it to people’s judgment as to whether they chose to water their lawns with municipal water.”
Urban areas do not often have those same concerns, he said, because lawns tend to be manicured.
“In the urban centres, you don’t have the same kind of threat you have in the rural areas where you have large areas of thick, dried-out grass or thick leaf beds that have dried out,” he said. “The way fires get started in rural areas, you might have a lightning strike hit a tree, and it will go to ground where the ground cover is dry as a bone. It will just light up.”